Home Entertainment : A New Wave of Competition Homing In?


At the annual Video Software Dealers conventions, retailers gather and fret about the latest threat to the lucrative business of renting home videos.

In past years they were anxious about laser discs and pay-per-view. Neither format, though, has made a serious dent in the video rental market.

What had some of them concerned at the recent convention in Las Vegas was RCA’s new low-cost home satellite system--the DSS (digital satellite system). Subscribers are able to get scores of channels beamed by satellite through a tiny dish that easily attaches to a house.

The DSS debuted last month in a few cities in the Southeast, such as Jackson, Miss., and Shreveport, La., priced in two models at $700 and $900. Dealers in these markets report that demand has outstripped supply; they’ve had to resort to waiting lists.


Nervous video retailers visualize consumers bypassing their stores in favor of having movies sent into their homes this way--particularly after the price for the hardware drops into the $300-$400 range. A big selling point is that DSS offers an extra-sharp picture and high-quality sound. Another reason for the DSS demand is that some people think it’s a more affordable version of those giant rooftop satellite dishes that pull in signals from all over the country; sports fans think they can use it to routinely pick up games outside their viewing area. But that’s not true. Initially, programming for the DSS will be provided only by special networks.

Locally, Sears is going to carry the DSS system, but a salesman in the Santa Monica store reported that there’s not even a tentative date yet for when it will be in stock.

Special Interest

* With Michael Jackson in the news as a newlywed, can sister LaToya be far behind? Nope. Her soft-core porn video, “Celebrity Video Centerfold: LaToya Jackson,” will be out Wednesday on Playboy, priced at $20. The tape consists mostly of Jackson baring her body in music-video-style segments. It also includes short snippets of her commenting on her life. Posing this way is nothing new for Jackson, who’s done a layout for Playboy magazine.


* For the more than 26 million hearing-impaired Americans, there’s an invaluable guide to the close-captioned tapes on the market. Including more than 5,000 titles, “Gopen’s Guide to Close Captioned Video” is 560 well-categorized pages, featuring a synopsis and rating of each entry. Usually the only way to find close-captioned videos is to look for labeling on the video box. The guide sells for $30, (508) 620-6555.

* KidVision’s has added to its marvelous “There Goes” live-action series, which informs kids about various vehicles and machines. “There Goes an Airplane” showcases all kinds of airplanes. “There Goes a Police Car” is also out. These half-hour videos are priced at $10.

What’s New on Video

“The Chase” (FoxVideo). A falsely convicted felon (Charlie Sheen) goes on the run. After stealing a car and snatching a snooty hostage (Kristy Swanson), he’s pursued by cops from San Diego to Mexico. Of course, during the long car chase, romance blooms between hostage and captor. The film is nutty, improbable and geared to the under-25 crowd, featuring bits by rock stars such as Henry Rollins and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you’re in the mood for mindless escapist fare, this is perfect.


“Major League II” (Warner). The 1989 original, about the adventures of a motley crew of a baseball team, was far from a great comedy but it was wacky fun. This one, about the team losing its edge after a championship season, isn’t as funny. Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen and Tom Berenger return for the sequel.

“Lightning Jack” (HBO). Paul Hogan tries to reincarnate his Crocodile Dundee character in this comedy Western. As a bumbling crook who yearns to be a famous outlaw, he teams with Cuba Gooding Jr. to rob banks. Renters hoping for a lively, Dundee-quality action comedy will be disappointed. “Angie” (Hollywood). Geena Davis plays brassy, Brooklyn-born Angie in this comedy/drama, directed by Martha Coolidge and geared to the female audience. Dissatisfied with her life, Angie agonizes through family problems, boyfriend problems and a childbirth tragedy before taking off in search of her long-lost mother. Co-stars Stephen Rea and Aida Turturro.

“My Neighbor Totoro” (FoxVideo, $20). Thoroughly delightful, Japanese-made animated feature about the adventures of two young sisters living with their father while their mother is in the hospital. In a country house in Japan, they’re befriended by a magical, furry creature called a totoro , only visible to children. Worth seeing just to savor the stunning animation. Caution: While stressing family bonding, some sequences, such as the sisters in a hot tub with their father, may be unacceptable to some American families. Parent pre-screening is advised.